Chairman Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi
… North loves Igbos more than no other tribe
ABUJA – Renowned statesman and Chairman, Northern Elders Forum, Prof. Ango Abdullahi says his organisation will work with the Oil and Solid Mineral Producing Communities Landlord Association of |Nigeria, OMPALAN to build bridges across the country and strengthen corporate governance. Prof. Abdullahi made the position known Tuesday during a meeting with OMPALAN leadership led by, Bishop Udo Azogu and other executive members of the group in Zaria.
The meeting which was convened by OMPALAN was aimed at dousing the rising tension in the country and to foster a cordial relationship among all ethnic nationalities and to pursue good corporate governance in the country. Prof. Abdullahi, a former Vice Chancellor of Amadu Bello University, Zaria, while welcoming the OMPALAN proposal on peace building, said his decision to back the Arewa Youths on the quick notice issued to Igbos was born out of accumulated feeling of betrayal of the South Easterners and particularly their political leaders, who failed to caution Nnamdi Kanu and other Biafra agitators but instead gave them full support in their struggle.
The Elder Statesman said he was particularly worried that notable political leaders in the South East like Dr Elex Ekwueme, Emeka Anyaoku, Jim Nwobodo and Mbazulike Amechi among others failed to speak out when the ovation was high but kept mute while the new Biafra agitation spread like wide fire and raged on. He said he was baffled when people started condemning him for making his own support to Arewa Youths open, unlike other Northern leaders who pretended about it.
According to him, the North and Eastern Nigeria had come a long way in terms of building political bridges starting from the first republic when Dr Nnamdi Zik conceded the position of Prime Minister to Tafawa Balewa and in second republic when Dr Alex Ekwueme was supported by the North to become Vice President to Shehu Shagari, a relationship, he said the North had always wanted to resuscitate despite the setbacks it suffered from the three years civil war.
He also revealed that part of their grouse against the Igbo was their failure to appreciate the love shown to them by the North after the Civil War by returning all their abandoned properties back to them in addition to rents collected on their behalf by various caretakers assigned to supervise the affected properties, a favour they (Igbo) could not get from their South-South neighbours who confiscated their properties in Port Harcourt and other South-South cities.
According to him, the Igbo should reciprocate the gesture of the North by supporting them politically rather than turning their back on them. He cited two instances where Igbo showed total rejection of the North when President Mohammadu Buhari chose late Dr Chuba Okadigbo and Edwin Umezeoke in 2007 and 2011 as running mates but was rejected by the Igbos, which led them to switch over to South West in 2015.
Earlier in his opening address, Bishop Azogu said the mission of OMPALAN was to unravel root causes of the rising cases of agitations and hate speeches which had raised tension in the polity and to seek possible means of addressing them. He said OMPALAN saw the various agitations across the country as a manifestation of the failure of leadership by the political class and had decided to work with all ethnic nationalities in the country, including the Northern Elders Forum to save the country from going into precipices.
He informed his host that the proponents of the present Biafra agitation do not enjoy the support of most Igbo and hence the need to refocus their anger on the political class rather than the innocent and poor Igbos. Azogu, who lampooned the South Eastern political class for not taking a common position to condemn the new Biafra struggle ab initio, blamed Prof. Abdullahi for supporting the action of the Arewa Youths Coalition. According to him, such support amount to making a blanket condemnation of the entire Igbo race and urged him to retract his earlier statement.
At the end of the meeting, both parties agreed that: the various crisis across Nigeria were as a result of leadership failure; that the bond of unity in Nigeria is stronger than divisive forces; that the North loves the Igbos which was exemplified by restitution of all properties belonging to Igbos in the North after the Civil War; that OMPALAN and Northern Elders Forum would set up a joint peace committee to douse tension generated by hate speeches and secessionist rhetorics; that there is not enough evidence on ground to justify trillions of naira disbursed through robust palliative programs to the Oil Producing States of Nigeria.
The meeting also agreed that: Oil is a national issue and that due recognition should be given to impacted areas; that Nigeria has been stagnated for over 60 years by corruption and bad governance; that the teeming helpless Igbo people cannot be made to pay for the ineptitude of the region’s political leadership and isolated secessionist rhetorics; that Nigeria to remains as one united and indivisible country where all law-abiding citizens can live and do business in any part of the country without fear of molestation or intimidation; that the quit notice to Igbo’s living in the north to serve as clarion call to the nation’s leaders; that there should be tolerance, accommodation and forgiveness amongst Nigerians.
The meeting further listed Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, MNDA; Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC; Oil Derivation Fund Commission and Federal Government Amnesty Program as some of the palliative programs established by government to cushion the harsh environmental impact on oil producing states: Speaking further to Vanguard Newspaper at the end of the meeting, Bishop Azogu said Nigerians are entitled to know the health status of their President. He said Buhari is not the President of APC or any special group but, the elected President of Nigeria with a mandate to steer the ship of State in consonance with the provisions of the nation’s constitution.
According to him, keeping Buhari’s health status secret for a long time is insulting the sensibilities of Nigerians. ‘‘It’s like saying it’s no body’s business. But, Nigerians will not be silent for a long time.
The Governors and other political leaders of the South East have failed the region. They’re unfit to represent the region. This is why some people cashed in on the vacuum created by the rudderless leadership of the region to demand secession. Nobody should be fooled anymore. He said the South East requires a new crop of leadership that can read political barometers accurately and work proactively to protect the interest of the region.
He described Prof Ango Abdullahi as an honest and sincere leader who simply raised alarm to save the country from blood bath and disintegration. ‘‘Other aggrieved leaders in the North saw the country on a dangerous collision course with anarchy and kept mute. Ango Abdullahi’s timely statement was not intended to incite lawlessness but, a clarion call to all Nigerians of all climes to work collaboratively and defend the unity of the Country,’’ he said.
THE REPUBLICAN NEWS